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Cost Containment in Climate Change Policy: Alternative Approaches to Mitigating Price Volatility


  • Gilbert E. Metcalf


Cap and trade systems are emerging as the front-running policy choice to address climate change concerns in many countries. One of the apparent attractions of this approach is the ability to achieve hard limits on emissions over a control period. The cost of achieving this certainty on emission limits is price volatility. I discuss and evaluate various approaches within cap and trade systems to reduce price volatility. A fundamental trade-off exists between certainty of emission limits and price volatility. A pure carbon tax sacrifices certainty of emission limits in favor of price stability. I discuss how a hybrid carbon tax can be designed to achieve a balance between price stability and emissions certainty. This hybrid, dubbed the Responsive Emissions Autonomous Carbon Tax (REACT), combines the short-run price stability of a carbon tax with the long-run certainty of emission reductions over a control period.

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  • Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2009. "Cost Containment in Climate Change Policy: Alternative Approaches to Mitigating Price Volatility," NBER Working Papers 15125, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15125
    Note: EEE PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Newell, Richard G. & Pizer, William A., 2003. "Regulating stock externalities under uncertainty," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 45(2, Supple), pages 416-432, March.
    2. S. Paltsev & J. Reilly & H. Jacoby & A. Gurgel & G. Metcalf & A. Sokolov & J. Holak, 2007. "Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals," Working Papers 0705, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
    3. Larry Karp & Jiangfeng Zhang, 2005. "Regulation of Stock Externalities with Correlated Abatement Costs," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(2), pages 273-300, October.
    4. Roberts, Marc J. & Spence, Michael, 1976. "Effluent charges and licenses under uncertainty," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3-4), pages 193-208.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fankhauser, Samuel & Hepburn, Cameron, 2010. "Designing carbon markets. Part I: Carbon markets in time," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 4363-4370, August.
    2. Samuel Fankhauser & Cameron Hepburn & Jisung Park, 2010. "Combining Multiple Climate Policy Instruments: How Not To Do It," Climate Change Economics (CCE), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 1(03), pages 209-225.
    3. Peter Heindl & Sebastian Voigt, 2012. "Supply and demand structure for international offset permits under the Copenhagen Pledges," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 12(4), pages 343-360, November.
    4. Bowen, Alex, 2011. "Raising finance to support developing country action: some economic considerations," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 37572, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Aldy, Joseph E., 2017. "Designing and Updating a US Carbon Tax in an Uncertain World," Discussion Papers dp-17-01, Resources For the Future.
    6. Bowen, Alex & Stern, Nicholas, 2010. "Environmental policy and the economic downturn," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 37589, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Ditya Agung Nurdianto, 2016. "Economic Impacts of a Carbon Tax in an Integrated ASEAN," EEPSEA Special and Technical Paper tp201604t5, Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA), revised Apr 2016.
    8. Jiang, Zhujun & Shao, Shuai, 2014. "Distributional effects of a carbon tax on Chinese households: A case of Shanghai," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 269-277.
    9. Higgins, Paul A.T., 2013. "Frameworks for pricing greenhouse gas emissions and the policy objectives they promote," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1301-1308.
    10. Adrien Vogt-Schilb & Stephane Hallegatte, 2017. "Climate Policies and Nationally Determined Contributions: Reconciling the Needed Ambition with the Political Economy," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 8319, Inter-American Development Bank.
    11. Claudia Kettner & Daniela Kletzan-Slamanig & Angela Köppl & Thomas Schinko & Andreas Türk, 2011. "ETCLIP – The Challenge of the European Carbon Market: Emission Trading, Carbon Leakage and Instruments to Stabilise the CO2 Price. Price Volatility in Carbon Markets: Why it Matters and How it Can be ," WIFO Working Papers 409, WIFO.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q4 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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